Coping with Endometriosis
Experiencing period pain is a normal part of the menstrual cycle.
However, an excessive amount of pain, the kind that might even lead to loss of consciousness, could hint at a bigger issue – endometriosis.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue shed from the lining of the uterus each month grows outside of the uterine cavity. The tissue grows on the ovaries, bowel, and tissues lining the pelvis. Unfortunately, why this happens is not known.
This misplaced tissue is affected by hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle and causes the area to become inflamed and painful. The tissue grows, thickens, and breaks down repeatedly over time and becomes trapped in the pelvis as it has no way of leaving the body.
Did you know that some people with endometriosis are actually asymptomatic?
Endometriosis affects people differently. Others may experience symptoms like pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse or pelvic examinations, and infertility. The intensity of pain varies from month to month, person to person. Sometimes, symptoms get worse over time, while others find their pain leaving on its own.
While a cure for endometriosis has not yet been found, there are treatment options that can help manage the symptoms. It is important to recognize that there is no single, correct way to handle endometriosis but trying out different methods and medications should lead to discovering a method that works best for you.
The Debilitating Nature of Endometriosis
Endometriosis can leave lasting consequences on those living with the condition. Although for some, the symptoms of endometriosis are closely related to their menstrual cycle, others may find that symptoms arise seemingly at random.
The pain that endometriosis causes can bring everyday life to a halt for some. Those living with the condition have reported pain so bad that they are unable to move or do anything at all. Some even pass out from the pain. Even normal activities become challenging to complete.
Having a job that is dependent on being constantly available can thus be difficult as endometriosis could cause this unbearable pain at any given moment. It is unfortunate yet not uncommon to hear of instances where people have had to leave their jobs to deal with their endometriosis.
Aside from having to quit regular jobs with structured schedules, those with endometriosis might even face social isolation. They may be perceived as unreliable for canceling at the last minute when pain strikes. This, in turn, could result in a loss of invitations to social events.
All of this undoubtedly takes a toll on mental health. Data has shown that those with endometriosis are at an increased risk for anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders.
What Are Your Options?
It’s natural to feel as though your own health and body are out of your control. Regain that sense of control by being patient with yourself.
While there is currently no cure for endometriosis, there are still ways to reduce the impact of the condition on everyday life. Getting a second or even a third opinion from medical professionals and doing your own research could be very helpful in your decision-making.
To combat the pain, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). If a certain medication you have been prescribed isn’t working or has been causing undesirable side effects, let your doctor know and work together to find a better fit.
If you’re not actively trying to get pregnant, your doctor may recommend any of the above in combination with hormone therapy.
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Although this doesn’t completely get rid of endometriosis, supplemental hormones are sometimes effective in reducing or eliminating the pain caused. This is because hormones play a part during the menstrual cycle in causing endometrial implants to thicken, break down, and bleed.
The treatments available may thus slow the growth of endometrial tissue by controlling hormone production and prevent new endometrial tissue from growing.
Hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings help control the hormones that cause the monthly buildup of endometrial tissue. Many who use hormonal contraceptives have lighter and shorter menstrual flows. Regularly using hormonal contraceptives may reduce or eliminate pain in some cases.
However, this isn’t a permanent fix for endometriosis. Symptoms might return if treatment is stopped.
Your doctor may recommend a laparoscopy, a procedure that allows a surgeon to look inside your abdomen for signs of endometrial tissue outside the uterus. This procedure, done under anesthesia, can help locate the endometrial tissue and identify the extent of the condition.
If you are trying to get pregnant while managing your endometriosis, undergoing surgery to remove the additional tissue while keeping your uterus and ovaries intact could be a viable option and help to reduce pain. If not, removing your uterus and ovaries could be an option. Be sure to clearly state what you want before the surgery.
The process involves a laparoscope being inserted through a small incision near your navel. Other small instruments are also inserted to remove endometrial tissue.
A well-planned and highly skilled surgeon might be able to fully treat endometriosis during the laparoscopy so that only one surgery is needed. However, as this is not a cure, endometriosis and pain may return following the surgery. Follow-up treatment with hormones may be prescribed to prevent a recurrence.
Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of surgery with your doctor before deciding to go through with it.
Depending on the severity of the pain you experience, you may be able to manage – or even alleviate – the pain with any of the following:
- Heating pads
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit
Having your own list of things to do to manage the pain is important. Even regular stress-relief activities like taking a warm bath or shower, reading, watching your favorite movie, or listening to music can help.
Keep a diary of the things you eat and do to help monitor what triggers symptoms. A detailed record can pinpoint what to avoid and what works, and the information might also be useful for the doctor monitoring your progress.
If you are planning on starting a family, understanding how the condition affects your fertility is important. You may need to avoid certain medications or treatment options. Speak to your doctor for information specific to your condition and situation.
Finding (Or Building) A Community
Repeatedly getting misdiagnosed or even brushed aside by doctors can get frustrating and disheartening. Those around you might not understand the full extent of your experience. Yet, receiving adequate emotional support and encouragement is important, especially when managing a chronic condition like this.
Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to find a strong community of people that understand what it’s like to live with endometriosis. Social media groups, forums, and hospital support groups are just a few ways to meet people and prevent feelings of isolation. Many people with endometriosis have found solace in friendships forged through this mutual bond.
Don’t forget that you also have your family and a close circle of friends to rely on for support. Make sure they understand that your pain is from a real medical condition and educate them with information about endometriosis. As those closest to you, they are in a position to best support you through bouts of pain.
Although endometriosis isn’t completely understood by experts, it shouldn’t have the power to disrupt your life. Effective treatments, like medication, hormone therapy, and surgery, are available to manage symptoms, notably pain, and issues of fertility.
Most importantly, don’t forget that you’re in this with your body. Listening to it, instead of getting angry at it or hating it for making you feel a certain way, could very well be the thing that helps you both get in control of the condition.
How Halza Helps With Endometriosis
Living with a chronic condition is undoubtedly difficult. Make managing your health easier with the Halza app.
Stay on top of any upcoming appointments or surgeries with the Reminders feature and keep track of any pain-alleviating medication you take with the Medicine feature. Keep a record of your period with the Period Tracker to take note of any irregularities. Upload and store any and all test results for a comprehensive overview of your condition on the Halza app and QuickShare them with any doctor in seconds. Now you can also optimize your Halza experience by adding your most used features to the newly added “+” button!
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